Title: La Luna del Cacciatore
Author: Jedi Buttercup
Disclaimer: The words are mine; the world is not.
Summary: Fittingly, it's another hunter's moon when Alexa Woods' life tilts on its axis for the second time. 2000 words.
Spoilers: Alien vs Predator (2004)
Notes: Slightly AU for the end of the movie; disregards the sequel entirely. No book canon, as I've never read them. Written as a treat for casinoquality in Yuletide 2010 and posted there in December.
Fittingly, it's another hunter's moon when Alexa Woods' life tilts on its axis for the second time.
It's the first time Lex has been out on the ice since the events on Bouvetøya Island. Not out of fear, but out of prudence due to her new notoriety; her professional record will always be marred by the team she took out and didn't bring back, regardless of how many contracts and non-disclosure forms Weyland and the U.S. government have buried the matter in between them. The type of people that would still hire her - well, they're mostly the type she wouldn't accept money from in the first place.
She hasn't felt the need to return to the Lho Lha icefall, either, or to climb any other mountains of her own accord. Somehow, after everything she's seen, the fate of the world at large has seemed more important than measuring herself any further against the challenges nature can present for her. No extreme of environment, no unconquered ascent, can ever compare to the test she'd just been through. She's put all her energy into the environmental protection agency she used to work for part-time instead, and hasn't yet regretted the change.
Some anniversaries require marking, though. Some events need to be remembered. She'd spent a week the first October after it all went down honoring the memories of the people she'd left behind on Weyland's ill-fated expedition - sending messages to Grahame's kids about what a hero their father had been, visiting the excavation that Sebastian's fee from Weyland had funded, even putting a condom to use in memory of Adele's joke about why she always carried a gun. Lex always carries a camera and a Pepsi bottlecap in her pockets now, and tries to live as though every day might be her last on Earth. No regrets.
The second anniversary, though - this year, Lex had wanted to do something more. Something - more personally meaningful. The government had finally returned the hunter's spear to her, after extensive reminders from her lawyers; she has no doubt they'd tested it extensively first, but that was only to be expected, after all. As long as she gets to keep it - to carry it out onto the Antarctic icepack tonight in memory of the other companion she'd lost, she is content.
The enemy of my enemy is my friend, she muses, remembering.
Her cheeks sting in the frigid air as she crunches over the snowpack, but she doesn't cover her face to protect them. She's not in danger this close to McMurdo Station; it's almost cheating, doing this so close to civilization, but Bouvetøya is still off limits, and it isn't so much the exact location that matters to her as the fact that she's back within the Antarctic Circle for the first time since it happened. Reliving those last moments. Her bare face is part of that: showing off the mark the hunter had burned into her cheek, effectively declaring her an equal among his people.
She doesn't romanticize his species, even to herself; she knows they think of her kind as something on the order of cattle. If her own observations hadn't proven that to her, everything she'd heard from the government afterward would have made that clear; they'd painted a pretty ruthless picture of the hunters, trying to convince her to share any actionable intel she might have. Sebastian's translations of the hieroglyphs in the pyramid haunt her dreams sometimes, too, as do the deaths she'd witnessed first-hand. But for all that brutality - she doesn't think she'd been imagining that there was something different about the one she called Scar.
He hadn't killed her when she'd begged him to wait, then reached for his gun. He'd given her the means to defend herself when she'd rashly insisted on coming with him. He'd let her be the one to carry out Sebastian's last wish. And perhaps most convincing of all, he'd trusted her to fight with him at the end as though she was one of his usual hunting partners.
He'd seen her as a person. And in return, she hadn't been able to avoid seeing him as one, too.
She'll never forget the sight of that Queen serpent's tail emerging from his chest, or of his body laid out on the stretcher the others of his species had borne into their ship. It's always possible, she supposes, that they have some magic alien healing as advanced as their weaponry to put him back on his feet - but even if that's true, she'll probably never see him again. It's not as though he'd have been enthralled by her conversation or her appearance; their cultures are literally worlds apart, so why would he return?
Except, that hasn't exactly stopped her from fixating on him, has it? Lex laughs ruefully to herself as she stops in a hollow between two low ice ridges in sight of Mount Erebus. It's as good a place to halt as any; the lights of McMurdo have faded behind her, leaving only the brilliant light of the moon and the dancing veil of the aurora borealis to illuminate her path.
She'd never have amassed seven seasons of experience as a guide on the ice without at least a little adrenaline junkie in her makeup, some of that drive to reach the top no matter what that had led to her father's death on Mount Rainier. And at her level of skill and training, there are very few people in the world she can truly consider her peers. She doesn't think any less of what other people choose to do for a living - but she knows who she is, what she can do, and knows people will listen when she tells them what to do when it impacts her specialty.
Surprisingly few people have that level of self-mastery, and she's become somewhat resigned to that eventually impacting all of her relationships, romantic or otherwise. Sebastian had been very sweet, but even if he'd lived she doubts the chemistry between them would have developed into anything lasting. There's some part of her, deep down, that became as hard as the ice she traverses after she lost her father, and she will change for no man's fancy. Nor woman's, either.
She is Alexa Woods. Ice guide, environmental technician, daughter to a man of unconquerable spirit - and a blooded hunter, who's killed creatures not seen on Earth in millennia at the side of a being whose race her own once worshiped as gods. And yes, there's something that thrills her a little about that: she's only human. And she can't help but wonder what might have happened if he hadn't been killed.
Would he have asked the others to let her go back with them? She knows he'd lost the other two members of his hunting pack - and there she'd been, with not one but two and a half serpent kills to her credit. Might they have adopted her into his clan, or whatever societal structure it was they used?
Would the others - his elders, if Sebastian's translations were to be believed - have agreed to that?
And maybe more to the point - would she have gone?
She doesn't have much to anchor her here, when she thinks about it. The agency. A few friends from school. Her father's friends, who still look out for her when she lets them. A little wealth all willed to the agency if she ever goes missing. And the world itself - the planet she's spent so much energy exploring and protecting since her teens.
Weigh that against the unknown. Against never seeing a human face again - for if they only come back every hundred years, save for the rogue trophy hunters the military men mentioned - surely Scar would never ask her to hunt her own people with him. There would be other places. Other worlds. Other creatures.
Other frontiers to explore where no human being had ever set foot. And - a companion she'd never have to hold back with. She remembers the way he'd deliberately roared in her face, flaring his mandibles as though expecting her to flinch - and the fact that he'd only marked her when she hadn't backed down in front of him.
It would have been hard. Would probably have been the death of her, eventually. And she'd have had to do without so many things she took for granted. But - it would also have been - well. No different from a long expedition on the ice, she thinks, triumphs and exhilaration included.
But it's useless to build fancy castles in the snow; to speculate about what might have been. She's here to honor a unique spirit, a being who'd saved her life and shown her his respect. This is her way of offering him respect, too.
Lex releases the catch to expand the spear-weapon into its fully extended state, and jabs one end down into the ice to fix it upright. Then she reaches a gloved hand into her pack for the bottle of champagne she'd brought along and resolutely pops the cork.
She doesn't have a quote prepared, or a meaningful piece of poetry; what does one say to memorialize a being from beyond the stars? She observes a moment of silence, instead, just breathing the crisp air under the brilliant moon. Then she pours a generous measure of the champagne into the snow. Isolated drops sparkle like diamonds as they fall, catching and scattering the light; her breath steams in front of her, forming tiny ice crystals as it cools. The blue shadows and the black sky and the grey metal of the spear provide just enough contrast to keep her anchored amid the dazzling wonder around her.
She takes a long drink from the neck of the bottle, then, and smiles as the bubbles fizz their way down. She's glad she came. She'd missed the ice more than she'd realized.
And then she turns. Against the sky, the unexpected reveals itself again: an invisible curtain shifting, a disturbance in the air that fades into unbelievable reality. A ship, like the one she had seen two years before.
"Scar," Lex whispers.
A door opens. A ramp lowers. And then an armor-clad figure, the stuff of nightmares and fantasies, strides out, heels crunching as he steps onto the pristine snow in front of her. He glances toward the spear, tilting his head in acknowledgement; then he looks back toward her and removes his helmet.
It's him. Facial scarring and all. She hadn't been sure, not until that moment, that she could tell him apart from another of his kind; but there's no question, now. This is her friend.
A second hunter approaches down the ramp, breaking the silence to make a sharp comment, his helmet turned toward Scar. Lex can't understand the language - not yet, anyway - but she can clearly discern the doubt and derision in his tone. More interesting is the way Scar responds: there's something smug and authoritative in the way he dismisses his companion's words.
Then he holds out a hand to her, there, under the hunter's moon.
Lex's heart is about to beat out of her chest; her breath is coming short with adrenaline. This is no fanciful daydream; this is real. The choice is in front of her. And she will not dither.
She reaches out - but not toward him, toward the spear. She yanks it up out of the ice and retracts it to its traveling size, holding it still upright at her side. Then, and only then, does she return his gesture.
Scar tilts his head back and roars with what sounds like approval as he takes her hand in his.
Lex holds the beauty of the scene to herself for one more breath, then releases it and smiles back at him, baring her teeth for lack of mandibles to flare. Her old life is over; a new life has begun.
She steps forward willingly into her next great adventure.